Faith, Life, Momming

Is It Well?

Fun fact about me: I’m an Air Force brat. My dad was in the Air Force until I was 16. I’ve moved a total of 11 times, and lived in 5 states (6 if you count college) and two countries. Nine out of the first 13 years of my life were spent living in base housing (two of the houses we lived in were either condemned or torn down right after we moved out). So we never really settled in, and we knew those houses weren’t truly going to be home.

The year after we got married, we moved out of the house my husband bought when he was 24 (by putting the down payment on his credit card via a cash advance……..) and we bought our first house together. It’s a split level with four floors, and after finishing the basement, we’re sitting at about 2,200 square feet. We’ve done a lot to this house. We’ve refinished the kitchen, replaced the flooring on the main level, refinished the fireplace with shiplap, replaced the windows, replaced the hall bathtub and surround, replaced the vanity in our tiny master bath, finish about half of the basement, replaced the back door, relocated the door to the garage back to its original location, and replaced or refinished a few lights. The projects seem endless, and so many places in the house don’t quite feel finished or fully decorated.

Our master bedroom had been untouched until last year. We had the mismatched chest of drawers we had each brought into the marriages, and hand-me-down decorations on our walls. After I refinished our headboard and a matching set of dressers we found on Marketplace, our room felt so much more cohesive. The newly refinished furniture necessitated a new wall color, which meant new wall decorations were required. I found a couple of pieces I loved at Hobby Lobby for our room, and one that was perfect for our bathroom (did I mention how tiny our bathroom is?). It wasn’t until last month that I realized just how perfect the artwork was for our bathroom.

If you know my story, you may remember it took us a lot longer to conceive our firstborn than I had expected it would. We received a male factor infertility diagnosis the month of our first anniversary. It wasn’t what we had hoped for, but it was good to have some clarity. On our anniversary, we made a stop at IKEA. As soon as we got off of the escalator, my husband pointed out a family not too far from us and asked if that was the associate pastor of the church I had attended and worked at before getting married. It was. We were an hour from home, and they were two hours from home, and some how we were in the same place, at the same huge store, at the same time. They had been a blessing to me while my husband and I were dating, and knowing they had dealt with infertility, I confided in the pastor’s wife. Before we said goodbye, they prayed for us (specifically that we’d have 100 babies). Later that week, I spent time praying and surrendering to God, knowing that I needed Him to do something—whether that was healing me/my husband, taking away my desire for children, or at the very least assuring me that He was with me through the desert of infertility. I heard from God, and I knew He had either healed us or that He was least with us.

Two weeks later, I cried my eyes out when I saw the second line that I had prayed to see for so many months. When my son was six months old, I was shocked to see another positive pregnancy test. I love my two little ones! I think they’re pretty cute and special.

I’ve been on both sides. I’ve experienced the exhausting roller coaster of hope and disappoint, the frustration, the jealousy, the questions, and the waiting that infertility brings. I’ve experienced the surprise, fear, and bittersweetness that an unexpected pregnancy brings. Both experiences solidified my conviction that God is the author of life, and whether I’m trying to conceive or trying to prevent pregnancy, He is the giver of life, and it comes in His timing.

A little over two years after our surprise positive pregnancy, we’re back to dealing with infertility. I’m back to seeing one line, when I have hoped and prayed to see two lines. Today we received a test result that shows our fertility has decreased since we were trying to conceive the first time. The doctor suggested we see a reproductive endocrinologist, which seems to say IUI or IVF are the next steps to take medically.

My heart is heavy. This is month ten, and I’m weary in this wait. This feels hopeless, medically speaking. My heart and arms long for another baby. While I was still pregnant with my second, I believe God gave me a vision of a third, a little boy in a blue and white striped romper. It sounds crazy, but I saw my older two sitting in front of me and the tiny little boy I held, and while I never pictured myself having a blonde baby and am still surprised that I have a blonde, my daughter had light hair.

I know nothing is too difficult for God. I know God is the giver of life. I know if the vision truly was from Him, He is able to give me a third. I know He has a good plan. I know He has perfect timing.

And yet, I’m still heavy hearted. I still feel like crying. I’m frustrated and disappointed in myself for feeling this was despite my faith and knowledge. I remember that Jesus cried at Lazarus’s tomb, despite His power and plan to raise him back to life.

Infertility is like exercise for my faith. It isn’t fun. It hurts. I don’t enjoy it. But I know that it’s good for my faith. I know that when my faith is put to the test, I get to see God’s hand at work.

And so, the artwork hanging in my bathroom is unintentionally perfect. As I wait for the tests to show one line or two, I see the words, “It is well with my soul.”

After I read the test and my hope turns to disappointment or to joy, I read the words, “It is well with my soul.”

Whether or not it feels good, “It is well with my soul.”

Whether or not I feel it in that moment, “It is well with my soul.”

This is one of those times it doesn’t feel good, and I don’t feel like “it is well”. But I know the truth is that God is faithful, able, sovereign, and so good. Despite my feelings, it truly is well.

Faith, Momming

Why yes, my eyes are green(ish).

It has started again. That old familiar pang of jealousy. Familiar because I’ve wrestled with it my whole life. From being jealous of other kids with friendships, to being jealous of other young adults getting engaged and married, to being jealous of my friends having children, to people who live near their families, jealousy is no stranger.

It’s not that I’m not happy for my friends when they have exciting news, I really am, it’s just that…I want to be happy too. It’s not that I feel threatened by their happiness, as if there’s only so much happiness to divide up between everyone, it’s just that I don’t like waiting and can’t figure out why they get what I have been wanting and praying for.

While my friends and family members had always seemed to get pregnant with ease, I faced month after month of hope turned to disappointment. A sixteen year old’s pregnancy announcement brought me to tears. Newly married married friends’ announcement of an unplanned, years-before-their-timeline pregnancy left me hurt and angry with God. Why did they get what I wanted, and had prayed for, when they either weren’t prepared for it or didn’t want it yet?!

After praying and surrendering, I finally became pregnant—despite a diagnosed fertility issue. Then just six months after giving birth, I received the surprise of my life when I saw a second line on a pregnancy test. My research showed me that the odds of getting pregnant had been incredibly low.

My two pregnancies taught me that God is the author of life. Even when I think I’m in control and have a plan, He is sovereign. My lesson echos James 3:13-16, which says, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”

I’m ready for baby #3 whenever or if God decides to bless us again. I trust His timing and His wisdom, yet, somehow, it’s started again. I found a little sting of jealousy when I saw a pregnancy announcement the other night.

Jealousy is a thief. It robs us of joy and thankfulness for what we have. Jealousy is also the sister of doubt because it carries questions about whether or not God can be trusted to meet our needs and whether or not He truly is good and loving.

I know I have a choice: I can embrace the jealousy or I can recommit to trusting God and thank Him for what I have. I’ve seen the path jealousy leads me down, and it is miserable. There’s a reason One of the Ten Commandments is not to covet!

When jealousy reared it’s ugly head the other night, I chose to remember that God is trustworthy. I chose to remember that He gives good gifts. I chose to remember that He knows what I need, and when I need it, so much better than I do. It may be a struggle for me, but I’d rather fight than succumb to jealousy and distrust. My physical eyes may be green(ish), but I’m choosing to trust instead of letting the green eyed monster take over.

If you are struggling with jealousy or comparison, remember what God has done in your life. We can trust God with our dreams and desires. His timing is perfect, and He is all loving.

What color are your eyes?

Faith, Momming

On This Day In History…

It started one year ago today. The darkest, most nightmarish time of my life started one year ago. A joyful trip to the zoo, for the first time as a family of four, resulted in a nauseatingly horrifying intrusive thought that propelled me into months of panic attacks, heavy anxiety, and intrusive thoughts.

I have never been as terrified or felt as broken as I did last summer. My foundation was shaken. I questioned myself, my perception of reality, my future, my faith, and my ability to love and protect my children.

When the intrusive thoughts first began, I remember wondering if I was suffering from postpartum psychosis. When I finally did some research, I quickly realized my symptoms matched the symptoms of postpartum OCD. Postpartum OCD can involve intrusive thoughts about harming your children. A few of the people I spoke to about my thoughts said they’d had similar thoughts in the past, but quickly shrugged them off, while I was horrified by them and couldn’t shrug them off. I felt like such a horrible person that the thoughts remained at the forefront of my mind, taunting and terrifying me. The fear of what I was capable of triggered thoughts of ending my life before I might act on the intrusive thoughts and harm the children I adored.

One night, as the thoughts and anxiety were intensifying, I cried to Thad, “I don’t understand why this is happening. I am so happy right now. I love my life.” I had just gone through postpartum hypertension in the days after my daughter was born. While I waited for my blood pressure to return to a normal level, I had been terrified that I would have a stroke and die. Who would love my children as much as I did if I died? I didn’t want to die. My experience only two months earlier made that crystal clear.

One year later, I’ve gone through therapy. I’ve been on medication. I’ve learned to fight the intrusive, lying thoughts with truth. I’ve seen just how blessed I am with an amazing support system. I’ve learned the power of having a mind fixed on God and filled with His Word. I’ve also gained a level of empathy and understanding for those who suffer from mental illness that I did not have before.

Looking back on the darkness that began a year ago makes me want to cry. I’m a million times better than I was, but I’m not completely back to normal. I don’t know if I ever will be. I have scars that weren’t there before. I am fully confident that God can redeem my nightmare, and make my scars into a story worth sharing.

One of the ways He redeems my story is in its sharing, because when I share it, others can see that there is hope. Life can be so much better. The nightmare can give way to dawn.

If you are struggling with postpartum mental illness, please reach out for help. I know it’s scary. I know it’s uncharted territory. But there is hope. You are not alone. Reach out to your doctor or midwife. Find a therapist you trust. Don’t give up. Keep fighting.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. #BreakTheStigma

Faith, Momming

The 10 Ways I Wasn’t Prepared to be a Mom

After months of crying and praying and waiting for my son, in many ways, I wasn’t prepared to be a mom. My son will be a year old in a few months, and here is what I’ve learned I wasn’t prepared for:

1. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of bodily fluids I would come into contact with.

I expected spit up. I did not expect to be squirted during diaper changes, and I didn’t expect diapers leaking through to my shirt during church, yellow goo on my hands because he wasn’t finished going when I started changing him, or being thrown up on 5 times in two hours. Not to mention, he has a sweaty head when he sleeps if his head is touching anything besides a sheet (just like my youngest brother had).
Being a mom involves getting dirty.

2. I wasn’t prepared for how his first smile felt.

It was on a Sunday afternoon, and I took a break from getting the house ready for our small group to spend time with my baby. I told him I loved him, and he smiled for the first time. My heart melted, and my eyes filled with tears. Since then, he is almost always ready to give a smile (unless he’s tired or hungry).
Being a mom involves heart melting moments.

3. I wasn’t prepared for the number of baby-inflicted injuries I would sustain.

When he was first born, I received scratches on a regular basis, and I had the marks to prove it because gloves would not stay on his little hands. Now that he’s mobile, I have had bloody lips because he plops his head down on my face. He’s also learned how to pinch. Apparently my arms and neck are prime targets for pinching. Again, I have marks to prove it. My hair is a pull toy that goes wherever I go. Unfortunately, I didn’t count the number of hairs he has pulled out of my head, but if postpartum hair loss didn’t make me feel like wearing a wig, or at the very least, a hat, my little hair puller might push me over the edge. The worst part is, after he tugs, I say, “OW! That hurt!”, and my ordinarily incredibly sweet baby smiles. He. Smiles. Thankfully he doesn’t have teeth yet, so he can’t bite, but I anticipate adding biting to the list of ways he’s assaulted me. 
Being a mom involves pain.

4. I wasn’t prepared for how smart he would be.

I know I’m naturally biased, but guys, my son is smart. At eight months old, he knew how to refute my “no” with an “ah!” and a nod of his own. He responds affirmatively and gets excited when we ask if he’s hungry and wants to eat, he waves bye-bye when questioned about where he’s going when crawling out of the room. If he has a dirty diaper, he smiles when asked if he stinks, he looks at his dad when I ask where Daddy is, he stops what he’s doing or sits up and watches for his dad when he hears the key in the door (even from the upstairs bedrooms!) or the garage door open, and he comes close when I ask if he wants to snuggle.
Being a mom involves proud moments.

5. I wasn’t prepared for the lack of sleep.

Oh sure, I was warned. Plenty of people took it upon themselves to tell me to enjoy my sleep while I could. I either ignored them or laughed it off as exaggeration. I graduated college and had my share of late nights of studying, and I lived in a dorm with fire alarms going off at random times in the middle of the night—I could handle it. Ha! I felt like a zombie for the first month and then again at 3-6 months when he was up every 1-3 hours. Then there’s a tough decision to make in the daytime: drink coffee and feel a little bit more energy but risk not being able to nap if you have the opportunity or don’t drink coffee, keep feeling like a zombie, and be able to take a nap if the opportunity arises.
Being a mom involves not sleeping.

6. I wasn’t prepared for laughing at 4AM.

My little character is in rare form these days when he wakes up in the middle of the night or early in the morning to eat. We bring him into bed with us to feed him, and he takes a few sips, then sits up with a massive smile, climbs on me, climbs on his dad, pushes my head or my other arm off of the arm resting on the mattress to make a place for his head to go as he plops down next to me to snuggle for a minute before he gets up with another smile and starts the whole process over again. At some point, decides to start eating again, and then snuggles for a little while longer before being taken back to his bed. 
Being a mom involves unexpected laughter.

7. I wasn’t prepared for how nerve racking the first few nights were.

Was he warm enough? Was he too hot? Was he going to scoot down into his swaddle and cover his face? Would I wake up if he cried? Was he still breathing? For the first few nights, I slept with my pillow propped up, overlooking his pack ‘n play, and waking up every few minutes to look at him, not because I was so crazy in love with my new baby, but because I was so afraid he’d stop breathing in the night, and I needed to make sure his chest was still rising and falling.
Being a mom involves worrying. 

8. I wasn’t prepared for how much I would love his personality. 

While I was pregnant, I worried that he wouldn’t like me or that I wouldn’t like him. While we have a few years before he grows up enough to decide whether or not he likes me, I’m pretty crazy about him. My little guy is a character. If you know my husband, you’re probably not at all surprised. He definitely inherited his goofiness from his daddy. He babbles and dances in his high chair or at the baby gate. He showers everyone he sees with smiles (again, as long as he’s not tired or hungry). He laughs at random things (mostly things his dad does, every once in a while I’ll earn a laugh). He is stubborn. He’s fearless (unless he’s faced with sunflowers, and then his bravery rapidly melts away). He’s adventurous. He is incredibly sweet and snuggly. He is observant. He is ornery. 

Being a mom involves falling in love.


9. I wasn’t prepared for the isolation I felt.

Granted, it took me weeks to feel human again and to be somewhat functional, but the first couple of months were incredibly lonely. I had worked until the day I went into labor, and I was used to being around people. Suddenly, I was with one tiny person all day, and for a while it seemed like all he did was cry, sleep, eat, and stare (he did a lotttt of staring, especially at the painting behind our couch). It was worse than it could have been because he was born in winter, and I am terrified of driving in snowy or icy weather. Plus, flu season was one of the worst in recent years, and my newborn didn’t have the immune system to fight a sometimes deadly flu. From what I read of other people’s experiences, the flu sounded absolutely miserable, and I didn’t want to get sick either!

Being a mom involves loneliness.

10. I wasn’t prepared for how fast it all goes.

When he was first born, I longed for the day he would sleep through the night, and therefore, wanted to just get through the newborn phase–even though I was warned about how quickly it goes. Again, I ignored what I was told. In just a few, short months, my newborn has gone from needing held constantly, not being interactive, being tiny, and being a loved little stranger to being able to sit up on his own crawl, pull himself up on furniture, walk with a push toy, smile, laugh, “talk” back and respond to questions, being big (okay, he’s still pretty tiny for his age, but he’s so much bigger than he was!!), and being someone whose likes, dislikes, and moods I know. It’s crazy how fast he’s grown. His growth and development has been so bittersweet. On the one hand, it is an absolute joy to see the new skills he develops, to watch his personality develop, and to watch him grow, but on the other hand, I cried when I boxed up his newborn clothes, and I know it’s just a matter of time before my snuggle-loving baby grows to be a space-craving little boy (my eyes filled with tears as I typed that).
Being a mom involves time flying.

And in just a few months, we get to start it all over again. I will probably still not be prepared.




Momming

Letter to a Newborn’s Mom

Dear Mom of a Newborn,
Congratulations! You did it! You gave birth to a beautiful son or daughter! Now the question is: who does the baby look like? You might not know yet, but what you do know is, you could stare at that little chubby face for hours, and you can’t quite bring yourself to put that precious little person down.
Maybe it’s been a few days or weeks since the big day, and the combination of hormones and sleep deprivation have started taking a toll. Everyone told you to enjoy your sleep while you could, but…you didn’t take them seriously. While you were pregnant, you woke up throughout the night and early in the morning, having a baby couldn’t be much worse. You could handle it.
After your first night with your little bundle of joy, you might have been kicking yourself. Waking up with a baby isn’t a matter of just emptying your bladder or finding a more comfortable position. Waking up with a baby means a diaper change, feeding, and burping. If your baby’s a slow eater, it could be a 40 minute process—every two to three hours. Which means you might get an hour or two in which you can sleep before you start the process all over again.
Nights are so very long. Because they’re so long, even though you are exhausted, you sometimes dread going to sleep because you know you will be awake in a couple of hours. You feel like a toddler who fights bedtime.
The days can be long too. All alone with your little guy or girl. All alone to handle the leaky diapers, multiple outfit changes per day because of the leaky diapers, and screams that make you feel inadequate, from a baby who’s already been fed, burped, and changed. And if your new arrival is a boy…you might have been a target during a diaper change.
You’re in survival mode. Exhaustion, coupled with new responsibilities, has stretched you thin. You’re so anxious for this phase to be over. Everyone told you time goes so quickly and that babies grow so quickly, but this feels like it’s lasting forever.
Dear Mom of a Newborn, just like they were right about the lack of sleep, they are right about time going quickly. Fully take in the moments with your napping baby who still likes to be cradled. I know you’re more tired than you’ve been in your life, but treasure the time you get to spend holding and feeding your little one—even in the middle of the night. Enjoy getting to try on all of the tiny outfits while they still fit.
Before you know it, your newborn won’t be a newborn anymore. Yes, you’ll get more sleep, but suddenly your baby won’t want to be cradled, you’ll be putting away those newborn size clothes and replacing them with size 3 Months. Despite the fact that you love seeing your son or daughter grow and develop, and you love seeing those smiles that melt your heart, your heart will ache a little because your baby will never be as tiny as he or she was just a few weeks ago.
Drink some coffee. Take a nap when your baby naps. Try not to feel too guilty for leaving dishes in the sink or letting laundry pile up. Whatever you do, treasure these days, take in every moment, because they were right, time goes by so very quickly.
Love,
A Mom of a No-Longer-Newborn